Good evening everyone. I would like to thank you all for attending this dinner. I am Bridget Mwaniki, a 17-yearPattonville High School senior, an advocate for change in our community and more so, a proud V4A mentee. I immigrated to the United States early this year, and V4A has been very instrumental in my holistic growth. True to their mission to welcome, connect and empower healthier immigrant individuals and families through the provision of support, services, and resources, V4A has provided me and many other young people with a platform to shine and express ourselves in a way that makes us have a distinction among others. V4A offers numerous programs to empower young people, such as our mentorship program, where we are all assigned mentors who are professionals in the career fields that we aspire to pursue. This gives keeps us on track and also serves as encouragement that our dreams are attainable. Our mentors are incredible people, who go out of their way to make time for us and uplift us in our various endeavors (thank them and give a shout out). We also hold monthly meetings where resourceful speakers come to expose us to the opportunities available to us. This kind of investment in young people, is what makes a difference on how we want to mold our next generation. V4A also provides us with networking opportunities such as programs with colleges (eg . Bridge the Gap) which helps us navigate our way and establish strong bonds with other organizations that are crucial to our career development.

Furthermore, V4A nurtures us to be leaders in our community. There have been coding classes, dance classes, Swahili classes, advocacy projects, and planning activities, all which are organized and led by the youth. This encourages responsibility and character building, making us have healthy relationships with community members as well as our peers. The uniqueness of the programs created through V4A make us stand out because we are allowed to be masters in what we love and what we believe in. We are given a voice.

V4A also offers fun activities where we all bond and share our ideas. We are also encouraged to maintain our cultural heritage, because it is an important part of us that defines our principles and morals- who we are. A good example being this occasion, where we congregated here as one celebrating us and the greater immigrant community in the U.S.

I would like to encourage everyone to actively participate in this noble cause of empowering young people. These resources and programs are present for us to take advantage of them. Whenever an opportunity arises, it is our responsibility to go for it, because all this is for our benefit. All parents present here, I would like you to endorse a driving force in your children and support them to achieve their goals- it is never too early to lay a foundation. We want the youth to step out of their comfort zone and take leadership roles in our community. Thank you for listening to me, and for supporting V4A because for me, it is more than just an organization, it is a home that sprouts the leaders of tomorrow.

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